Music Has Charms . . . and Power


“Music has charms to soothe the savage breast;
to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
— William Congreve, English dramatist (1670 – 1729)

When William Congreve wrote these words into his play, “The Mourning Bride”, he was not making an anatomical reference by his use of the word “breast”. In his time, at the turn of the 18th Century, his reference to the “savage breast” was taken as a reference to uncivilized or irrational behavior. Later when the word breast took on a more specific meaning the word “beast” was substituted but the meaning was not changed and became, perhaps, even clearer.

Science later confirmed Congreve’s inference that music has power over human behavior when it discovered that the human brain has a chemical reaction to music — it produces chemicals that help to improve brain function. One of those chemicals, Serotonin has been found to also improve nerve function.

Now researchers in Finland have taken the role of music in human behavior another step. According to today’s Washington Post:

“Their study of 54 patients who’d suffered a stroke of the right or left hemisphere middle cerebral artery found that those who listened to music for a few hours a day showed better improvements in verbal memory and focused attention, and had a more positive mood than those who listened to audio books or listened to nothing at all.”

The stroke victims were given a choice between listening to music or audio books or nothing at all. Everyone was also given the standard physical therapy.

Here’s a quote from a statement by the chief author of the study, Teppo Sarkamo, of the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Brain Institute, where he quantifies the improvement:

“We found that three months after the stroke, verbal memory improved from the first week post-stroke by 60 percent in music listeners, by 18 percent in audio book listeners and by 29 percent in non-listeners. Similarly, focused attention — the ability to control and perform mental operations and resolve conflicts among responses — improved by 17 percent in music listeners, but no improvement was observed in audio book listeners and non-listeners. These differences were still essentially the same six months after the stroke.”

An additional fact is that those who chose to listen to music chose their own music. I can’t help but wonder just what music they chose. I can’t imagine Hard Rock, Hip-Hop or Rap having anything but a negative effect on emotional stability and an even worse effect on brain function. That, of course, is a non-scientific rant on my part.

News Links:

CBS News: Music To The Ears Of Some Stroke Victims

Washington Post: Music Therapy Improves Stroke Outcomes

Blog Links:

TuneDex Memories: Stressed? Victim of a stroke? We can help!

Locked and Secure: Strokes, Music And Gambling

Whymrhymer blogs at: My View From the Center

Michelle Obama: Ashamed of America?


“Hope is making a comeback and, let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.”

That was Michelle Obama mired in bombast, during a rally in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That was what she said but was that what she meant to say? It’s possible that that was exactly what she meant.

“Hope,” she said, “is making a comeback” and “people are hungry for change.” That is, of course, pure rhetorical nonsense! Every man and woman in America has hope for the future. Some bury that hope in the despair of the moment because they are afraid of hope just as a child is afraid of rejection, but that hope is always there as is their hunger for change.

So, nonsense rhetoric aside, is Michelle Obama ashamed of America? There are many people in the United States who are ashamed to be American; she may have just admitted that she is one of them.

This unthinking minority is ashamed because our standard of living is so high — even the poorest of our poor have more disposable income than do the vast majority of people in some countries. They ignore the billions of dollars in food and products the United States gives each year to clothe and feed the most desperate around the globe — including our own.

They see people in this country getting rich from their ideas and from their initiatives and hard work and they feel that the rich have an obligation to feed, clothe and support those who aren’t rich. They ignore the fact that these rich people contribute millions to charity and pay the majority of the taxes used to run the government. So lets tax them more they say — they can afford it.

They see inequities everywhere they look and feel that the Federal government’s role is to correct those inequities by taking from the rich and giving to the poor — who was that who thought that to be a great strategy: wasn’t it Karl Marx, the “father of communism?”

That is the direction Michelle, Barack and the rest of the confused minority want us to move in! Don’t believe me? Just pay close attention to their words and promises and plans between now and November and it will be crystal clear!